In the past, Jerry Morris has given tours of his Harvey County hog farm to everyone from county commissioners to Kansas State University. But these days, the only vehicle going in and out of the facility is a feed truck.
Morris said he's not the only one in the state ramping up security efforts in the wake of the H1N1 virus. "We don't let anyone around the facility now, except myself and my grandson," Morris said from his 5,000-head wean-to-finish operation near Sedgwick. "Being a smaller operation, we pretty much control everything on it, and we are lucky that we can isolate ourselves from the potential problem."
At present, nearly 300 people in the United States have contracted H1N1, formerly known as swine flu. Possibly six of those are in Kansas. Yet, so far, no hogs have the virus in the United States. That doesn't mean a potential outbreak couldn't occur, industry officials say.
In Canada over the weekend, officials said a farm worker passed the virus to a herd of hogs. The farmer and the pigs apparently have recovered.
The National Pork Board, along with the Kansas Pork Association, recommended heightened biosecurity after the news of the first case hit the airwaves, said Tim Stroda, the KPA's chief executive officer. About 80 percent of the pigs in the state already had some type of biosecurity protocol, Stroda said.
At Seaboard Farms, which has hog facilities across Kansas, security measures already were tight before the new virus announcement, said David Eaheart, the company's marketing director. However, more cautionary procedures have been put in place, he said.
Employees now have to wait five days before going from one operation to another — especially if traveling to facilities with young pigs, Eaheart said, noting that wasn't something that happened often.
He said employees traveling out of the country have to wait five days before coming back to work. Before, it was three days. Also, visitation has come to a halt. Eaheart said security is a top priority for Seaboard anyhow. "We want to make sure to keep our herds healthy," he said.
KPA Chairman Ron Suther, who has a farrow-to-finish operation northeast of Manhattan, said producers have to be more vigilant. If employees are sick, they shouldn't come to work, he said. He's also keeping visitation from outsiders extremely limited.
In all, there are about 1,500 swine farms in Kansas. The state ranks 10th in the country for hog and pig inventory, Stroda said. In 2008, Kansas producers sold 3.27 million market hogs, feeder pigs and seedstock, with a gross market value of $405.7 million. "It does make a difference whether we are here or not," he said.
Source: Associated Press